Alex Garland’s sci-fi film Annihilation (2018) is great art. This is a movie that should upset and infuriate some viewers who figured they were getting a sci-fi action movie and instead had Tessa Thompson sprout leaves and people attack a bear with human screams. It’s meant to put you in the same dreamlike state of the characters, offering explanations for what’s going on, but also never declaring its theme. In the future story, we will find out what is the meaning of the film Annihilation. Let’s take a step-by-step look at what the movie Annihilation is about.
The meaning of the movie Annihilation 2018
So what exactly happens to annihilation? First of all, this is a film about cancer.
No one in the film says, “It’s about cancer,” but within the first fifteen minutes, it’s clear that the premise of Garland’s film is basically, “What if the Earth, that is, the planet itself, gets cancer?” The film moves forward from this premise. The plot is about biologist Lena, who, along with fellow scientists Dr. Ventress, Thorensen, Sheppard and Radek, want to find answers. But the film is about cancer, and you can see it consistently throughout.
We immediately understood this right from Lena’s first lecture at Johns Hopkins where she talks about cell division and how cells rapidly divide and mutate. It then shows how three years ago something hit the lighthouse in the South Reach and it began to expand. The inexplicable phenomenon makes a good substitute for how cancer strikes.
Once Lena and the team are inside the Twinkle, they begin to notice mutations, and these mutations replace cancer (a tumor in the heart of the Twinkle) affecting other cells. Garland basically takes a biological phenomenon and puts on something similar to Fantastic Voyage. Everything is confusing because of the mutations, and as Radek later explains to the group, they are mostly inside the prism, so everything is refracted. Minds, bodies, everything is messed up because that’s what cancer does to a healthy body.
Some details support the cancer metaphor. For example, the expedition includes all women. In terms of the plot, this is explained by the indication that the previous teams were men, and this could change the results of the expedition. However, it is also worth noting that the most common form of cancer is breast cancer, which largely affects women.
Also, even though all the characters are doctors of some sort, the only character referred to as “The Doctor” is Dr. Ventress. Although she is a psychologist by trade, her role in the story has little to do with psychology and has more to do with how people get into the Flicker rather than out. Of course, knowledge doesn’t protect against cancer, and Ventress literally got cancer in the movie.
So what does cancer have to do with Lena’s memories? How Lena’s self-destruction creates cancer in her marriage. Lena’s story is the heart of the film. If you cut off her strained relationship with her husband, her guilt for cheating on him, and her desperation to find something that could save him, then you have a film that is still charming but also cold. There is no emotional center in this because you only have five people going through cancer. Everything in the memories is the humanity that is connected to each person – our regrets, our hopes, our dreams. For Lena, her story is about trying to find redemption. That’s why when she talks about trying to save Kane, she doesn’t say, “I love him.” She says, “I am indebted to him.”
As the movie continues and we get closer to the Blink, we lose Sheppard and Thorensen. Radek notes that Ventress “wants to face it” and Lena “wants to fight it”, but she just wants to accept it.
So why doesn’t the same thing that happens to Ventress happen to Lena? For the same reason, cancer doesn’t kill everyone who gets it. But when we see Lena face to face with her alien mirror, it’s a powerful visual representation of cancer. Cancer is foreign, and it is in our cells. It is not an infection or a virus. It’s our own bodies turned against us, what’s happening to Lena at the lighthouse. The only way she is able to destroy him is with a phosphorus grenade, which can also replace chemotherapy. It is a destructive force designed to destroy an alien being that is also a part of us.
The meaning of the ending of the movie Annihilation
The last scene of the film is the most mysterious, where we see Kane, who has recovered, and Lena together. She admits that this Kane is not her Kane, but most likely a copy that was created inside the lighthouse. They are both “survivors” and his experience is forever changed. When we see the Twinkle in both of their eyes, it’s a reminder that cancer is never truly eradicated. As this comic eloquently explains, cancer is always with you, no matter what you do, even if you are “cancer free”. It also ties into the nature of their marriage, where the foundation of their marriage has mutated. Now they are different people and even if you removed all the sci-fi stuff and just got the wife to reunite with her husband after he cheated on him, he knew about the infidelity which is why he left in the first place. They would be forever changed.
Write in the comments your assumptions and theories about what the film Annihilation is about and what its meaning is. We look forward to waiting!